When you develop a video game, there are so many questions that need answering. Chief among them is how, exactly, you will market your new title. The typical route for video game advertising is through a distributing publisher, but is that always the best option? With marketing agencies offering cheaper rates, indie developers may be swayed to keep more of their profits. However, it’s not just about the upfront cost. Developers also need to consider the value of what they’re actually receiving, and that’s what we’re here to discuss. 

As we go through the differences between game publishers and marketing agencies, we will dig deeper into:

  • Using game publishers to bring your game to market, specifically how it works and how much it costs
  • Using a video game marketing agency to promote your game, specifically how it works and what it costs
  • How to decide which option works best for your needs

Bringing Your Video Game to Market with a Game Publisher

Bringing your video game to market with a game publisher

Game publishers are among the most common means of video game marketing. While the developer crafts the interactive experience, it’s the publisher that ensures it winds up in households all over the world. This is what many consider the traditional means of releasing and marketing your game. When working with a third-party publisher, there are many facets to consider as a developer before you agree to give up a percentage of your profits. 

Before even getting to the negotiations, developers must catch the publisher’s attention almost immediately. It is crucial to draw them in with a playable snippet or video that shows the tone, gameplay, and a gripping moment that will make them want to see and know more. With a foot in the door and their interest piqued, it’ll be time to review what a publisher can offer you in terms of the contract and the publisher’s costs. 

How Developers Work with Game Publishers: Deals, Contracts, and Costs

When approaching a publisher, indie developers don’t always have a finished product. Suppose a publisher is interested in funding and marketing a project. In that case, they’ll move forward with milestone-based funding, where developers, for example, are expected to complete a beta build of their game by a specified date. To help reach each milestone, the development team receives a sum of money until the game is complete. 

Included in a typical video game publisher’s contract are

  • Finished product price point, typically set by the publisher
  • A revenue split, generally in favor of the publisher until the initial advance is recouped
  • Intellectual property rights ownership, often retained by the developer
  • An end date for the agreement

These contracts can vary depending on the publisher, how complete a game is, and how the game is priced and distributed. What rarely changes is how the cost of the publisher’s services is laid out. A common split involving an advance could be 60/40, in the publisher’s favor. After the advance is paid off, the split may swap to give the developer 60% of the revenue share. For their share, the publisher builds up the initial hype through marketing blasts.

The Pros and Cons of Using a Publisher to Promote a Video Game

Video game marketing is never straightforward, and there will always be pros and cons with every option. When it comes to working with a game publisher, some of the perks indie developers will enjoy include:

  • Initial marketing is managed by expert advertising teams
  • Exposure to a larger audience
  • Distribution is provided
  • No upfront, out of pocket fee
  • Higher long-term earnings

Unfortunately, for every perk, there are also some pitfalls to be mindful of. Those include:  

  • Publisher can own a large share of the finished product
  • Publishers can request revisions to the game
  • You lose some of your power 
  • Long-term marketing is still up to the developer

Promoting Your New Game Through a Video Game Marketing Agency

Promoting your new game through a marketing agency

On the other end of the spectrum are marketing agencies specializing in promoting a product. In this case, your video game. Unlike publishers, marketing agencies will typically stay out of the development process. Their goal is to get the game out there and seen by an expansive audience. It’s a strictly business relationship that works a bit differently than the developer/publisher contract.

How Developers Work with Ad and Marketing Agencies: Deals, Contracts, and Costs

Whereas game publishers may become part of the development process by creating milestones and interjecting opinions, marketing agencies are more concerned with all aspects of video game advertising. When working with an agency, indie developers will want to outline the networks and channels they wish to reach to ensure maximum exposure.

Another big difference between a publisher and a marketing agency is the marketing agency retainer fee. Whereas a game publisher takes a cut of the developer’s revenue, an agency often requires payment upfront. Sometimes, you can negotiate a structure where you pay when the agency shows results, but always expect an initial fee to secure its services.

Commonly included in a marketing agency contract is:

  • A detailed scope of work
  • Payment schedules
  • Contract end-date
  • Ownership and rights agreements

The Pros and Cons of Working with a Video Game Marketing Agency

While the relatively lower cost of the marketing agency retainer fee may be appealing, indie developers still have to weigh the pros and cons of working with an agency. With a marketing agency, developers enjoy:

  • Detailed marketing strategies
  • Access to the latest in marketing technology and tools
  • More likely to retain full ownership of their product
  • More flexibility with payment schedules

Conversely, though, marketing agencies also come with the potential of these cons:

  • Contract being handed down to junior level advertisers
  • Initial upfront cost
  • Possible lack of video game experience
  • Agency attention can be split among clients

How to Publish Your Game: Choosing the Right Path

Finding the best way to publish your video game

The bottom line is that you want to make the most out of your video game release, which typically means appealing to a large audience and bringing in a steady revenue stream. Both game publishers and marketing agencies have their merits, but what it boils down to is which offers the better value for your needs. 

To choose the best option, you have to consider:

  • Can you afford a higher upfront cost?
  • Do you mind relinquishing some ownership?
  • Are you looking for a party to get invested in your project?
  • Do you only care about direct marketing?
  • Do you need help distributing your game?

Once you answer these questions, you’ll be able to decide between a game publisher or marketing agency for your video game advertising needs.

The Best Way to Market Your New Video Game

The bottom line is that you want potential players to see your game. The more that catches wind of your marketing, the more likely you are to sell copies and increase your revenue. That’s a specialty of ours here at Loopr.

We offer affordable video game promotion and strategy development to help your video game reach the public’s eye. Work with us, and you’ll have a team vested in the gaming industry guiding you through advertising your release across multiple platforms. Get in touch with Loopr today.

Can’t get enough of this stuff? Check out our video game PR case studies to learn how we’ve helped indie game developers and esports brands just like you.

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